Britons jailed for Syria-related terror offences
Two British men were sentenced to prison for terror offences Friday, as security forces crack down on what they say is a mounting threat from jihadists radicalised by the Syria conflict.
Childhood friends Mohammed Ahmed and Yusuf Sarwar, both aged 22 from Birmingham in central England, were jailed for 12 years and eight months each.
In a separate case, Mashudur Choudhury, a father of two in his early 30s from Portsmouth on the southern English coast, was sentenced to four years jail for engaging in preparation of terrorist acts.
Ahmed and Sarwar, who pleaded guilty, were jailed for the same offence after travelling to Syria, where they are believed to have spent eight months with Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, Al-Nusra Front.
They went to Syria in May last year after contacting Islamic extremists, and were arrested on their return to Britain in January, a court heard.
"They willingly, enthusiastically and with a great deal of purpose, persistence and determination embarked on a course intended to commit acts of terrorism," judge Michael Topolski said.
"Both of these defendants are fundamentalists who are interested in and deeply committed to violent extremism," he added.
However, former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg said the pair had been branded "terrorists" despite having "no intention of harming anyone".
"I spent several months in prison with these two men and I do not consider them to be a threat to the British public in any way, just in the same way the police that arrested them said they posed no threat whatsoever," he said.
"They never joined Islamic State nor expressed intention to do so; rather, they returned back home.
"This case must be taken to appeal."
Meanwhile Choudhury, who in May became the first person to be convicted in Britain of terror offences related to the Syria conflict, was found guilty of engaging in preparation of terrorist acts.
Choudhury was part of a group of up to six young men who travelled from Portsmouth to Syria in October last year, with the intention of attending a terrorism training camp, his trial heard.
Four of the group have already been killed in fighting, according to reports.
British security forces have stepped up surveillance and arrests of terrorism suspects in recent months, and lawmakers are set to toughen anti-terrorism laws in a bid to stem the flow of Britons joining Islamic State (IS) jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq.
An estimated 500 Britons have travelled abroad to become jihadists and officials fear the return of battle-hardened and radicalised fighters.
The self-proclaimed Islamic State group aims to create a "caliphate" straddling Syria and Iraq, and has proved adept at using social media, gruesome online videos and glossy literature to attract thousands of volunteers.
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